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Sony to remaster ‘Breaking Bad’ for some Ultra HD meth cooking

Walter White is going to get a second chance at life now that Sony Pictures Television has announced a remastering of all five seasons of AMC’s popular drama “Breaking Bad.” The new editions will be available in ultra-high definition “4K” quality as part of the company’s drive to increase the amount of content available in that format.

The series is just one of the many titles Sony plans on up-converting into the new format, which offers picture quality that’s four times superior than today’s HD programming (Hence “4K”); other titles in the Sony library that will undergo the improvements include popular films “Ghostbusters,” “Groundhog Day,” and the non-Bill Murray-starring “Glory,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The announced upgrades come following the unveiling of multiple 4K-ready televisions at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, with Sony hoping to offer enough content that it will drive potential customers towards purchase.

“It has increased our workload somewhat,” Sony’s EVP of Asset Management, Film Restoration and Digital Mastering, Grover Crisp, told the Reporter. “There is a need for 4K content. We are hoping to fill some of that need.”

In order to transfer the material to the required quality, the individual camera negatives for each title have to be scanned and corrected – including color grading and image restoration where necessary – digitally. Much of the work is being handled at Colorworks, a Sony-owned post-production house in Culver City, California, which will launch a department devoted entirely to 4K television production today.

Such a facility is likely to become more valuable to the company in upcoming months and years; within the last week, the International Telecommunication Union agreed on a new video coding standard – unofficially called High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) – that “could enable the practical introduction of 4K broadcast services on today’s over-the-air channels,” according to Sony’s CEO Hugo Gaggioni. He also understandably described the move as “a significant next step toward enabling the transmission of high-bandwidth data, such as 4K content.”

For now, 4K distribution is still rather difficult. Both “On The Waterfront” and “Funny Girl” have been upconverted into the format for Blu-ray release, but Blu-ray doesn’t actually support true 4K. This means the signals from the discs will have to be upconverted for full effect, which in itself is of lower quality than 4K but it’s “the best possible picture” technology can provide currently. Confusing, huh? Basically, to see 4K remastering as it is meant to be seen, audiences will have to head to movie theaters: “On The Waterfront” and “Funny Girl” will both be shown at movie festivals to promote their new editions before the Blu-ray release. Aside from that, time to wait for the next generation of Blu-rays.

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